I have counseled couples who lost their child—by cancer, accident, suicide. All I know and feel is that “This is the greatest grief of all.” To lose one’s child is not only to lose a close and life-long relationship, it is to lose the dreams we have for the future of the one we love. Years ago, Rabindranath Tagore wrote:
“Every child brings with it the promise—
that God is not yet finished with humankind.”
But, when a child dies, there are three loses:
the closeness of a relationship,
the dreams we hold in our hearts,
and…the hope we have in God.
The death of a child upsets the order of life—
the way things “ought to be.”
But, there is another order, a Voice that invites us to see a wider view.
As one grieving mother wrote:
Help us find our way to You.
For, You are our beginning and You will be our end.
Teach us to savor simple moments:
the feel of sunlight, the flow of water, the song of birds.
When material possessions control our lives,
and fill us with a sadness we cannot name,
Help us remember: the best things in life are not things.
Help us find our way back to You…
because You are our beginning and You will be our end.
During the virus, we have lost our wider view, our dreams, our human support from one another. We have lost hope.
But, this is not God’s dream for us. God creates from nothing. God gives light. . God opens a door. God gives us a future.
Such is the story of Abraham, who was willing the seek God, willing to believe in God, even when his wife laughed at him.
And, Abraham was willing to do God’s will, at the great cost of sacrificing his son. And so, the name of one religion “Islam” is best known as surrender, and best translated as “the peace that comes with our surrender to God.”
Such is the trust in the midst of despair, the trust in God ALONE.
The story is clear: Abraham was old when he bore his son, Isaac, but he is known as the “father” of faithfulness. In an age of rampant paganism, Abraham was willing to go where he had no certain answers, to go only with the assurance that what God asked of him was an acknowledgement, not of the many gods, but the One God.
In a culture of pagan sacrifice, Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son. So, he went to the mountain and prepared the ritual fire. All he had was trust in God.
The moment of sacrifice came and Abraham was willing to surrender Isaac, his beloved son. But, Abraham heard a voice beyond human voices: “Do not lay your hand upon the lad…for now I know that you fear God…” And, Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the thicket and offered the ram instead. And, Abraham called the place “God will provide.”
Such is the story that unites Christians, Muslims, and Jews. It is the “peace” that comes in our willingness to follow God alone. That’s what is celebrated on Eid al Adha, at the end of July this year.
So, we can learn again from our fore-bearers in faith,
that in spite of uncertainty, in spite of loss,
we can listen to another Voice:
God will provide.
Rev. Dr. Sally Palmer directs the On Sacred Ground Team of the Wyoming Interfaith Network and leads Contemplative Outreach of Wyoming. She is retired from teaching at UW in Religious Studies and pastoring at St. Paul’s U.C.C.